MATTOON, Ill. (WAND) - Businesses come and go in every city. For Mattoon, there's the oil industry that's all but dried up. General Electric, Blonox, and more have also closed their doors.
However, a few community staples have held strong over the decades and are now paving the way for new growth. Just east of Interstate 57 in Mattoon, is the future home of an HSHS Medical Clinic, a Blue Cross Blue Shield Call Center, and a Hilton Garden Inn and Convention Center. While Mattoon is home to many businesses, Mattoon Mayor Tim Gover says one industry has remained strong through the ages.
"I would say, an agriculture area, and so we depend to a great extent upon agriculture for our economy here," the mayor said.
Mayor Gover says he's watched a lot of growth over his last nine years in the role, and he says he's open to more.
"I was talking here recently with a gentleman, who said, 'Well what we really need are some industrial companies that will come in here and employ three, or four hundred people.' That's not going to happen. Those jobs are all going overseas,” Gover explained. “The industry, so called, that we might have here would be what I would call in the future, 'local-grown industry.'"
Gover says that's where a person starts a business in their garage, it gets a little bigger, and they eventually employ dozens of people. While it often flies under the radar, there's now an incubator headquartered in the Cross-County Mall to cultivate bright minds like this.
"We got a Google Grant of $250 thousand dollars and then another $75 thousand dollars on top of that,” shared Mattoon City Administrator, Kyle Gill. “Which, is really to help develop that and get entrepreneurs to start up their businesses here and give them a place to work at and develop their business and eventually move on to a bigger plant or office space whatever they need."
But if people like this end up staying local, Gill and Gover agree they would not complain! There’s also been a large push at area high schools to develop young entrepreneurs through unique curriculum opportunities and job fairs. They’d be joining a solid group of progressive business people reviving the city to its former glory.
"The downtown business district looks about like it did 30 years ago when it was really booming. It used to be you could shoot a canon down Broadway and who would've known?” Gover said. “Now, there are times when you have to search for a parking place, and that's fantastic!"
Gill and Gover say the city has excellent working relationships with Charleston and Coles County to help with the betterment of the entire area.
Three major businesses have their headquarters in Mattoon. This includes Consolidated Communications, First-Mid Illinois Bank and Trust, and Rural King.
Speaking of Rural King, the company recently purchased the Cross-County Mall. Since then, there's been some renovations and additions to the space. This includes a new restaurant, Scotty’s Brewhouse, Elevate, the space for local entrepreneurs to work, and an incoming Marshall's.
For a while, there was concern the mall might go under. Several staple stores like Sear's, Carson's, and Payless Shoes closed. But now, Mayor Gover says the mall is on the right track.
"Nationwide malls are falling by the wayside but with Rural King buying the mall, it's going to be there for a long time. So, we've got a lot going for Mattoon that other communities don't have," Gover said.
City Administrator Kyle Gill says there's also talk of other stores possibly moving into the mall, so stay tuned!